Read through, what you will find is that, Edward Grey, without even notifying the Parliament, without even seeing all the doors of negotiation, dragged Britain into a war which it no way is concerned about. The members dissenting the view are literally irritated at the way things are progressing – the government is deliberately driving the show towards war. The points highlighted cite the hypocrisy of the government of the day and nothing more. What did they gain? A few more territories and a belligerent Germany which destroyed itself in another war more devastating, and along with it, brought down the British Empire permanently.
EDWARD GREY I want to give the House some information which I have received, and which was not in my possession when I made my statement this afternoon. It is information I have received from the Belgian Legation in London, and is to the following effect:—
“Germany sent yesterday evening at seven o’clock a Note proposing to Belgium friendly neutrality, covering free passage on Belgian territory, and promising maintenance of independence of the kingdom and possession at the conclusion of peace, and threatening, in case of refusal, to treat Belgium as an enemy. A time limit of twelve hours was fixed for the reply. The Belgians have answered that an attack on their neutrality would be a flagrant violation of the rights of nations, and that to accept the German proposal would be to sacrifice the honour of a nation. Conscious of its duty, Belgium is firmly resolved to repel aggression by all possible means.
Of course, I can only say that the Government are prepared to take into grave consideration the information which it has received. I make no further comment upon it.
Mr. MORRELL I assure the House I feel very strongly and keenly the responsibility of my position. I hope the House will give me a short hearing while I endeavour to put before it, as clearly as I can, the reasons why many of us—and I believe I speak for a good many on this side of the House—feel unable to agree with the Government in the policy they are now pursuing. I am quite ready to admit that the Foreign Secretary made, as he told us he did, every possible effort to secure peace in Europe. The only question we ask ourselves is whether, since the failure of his efforts, he has really made a sufficient attempt to make fair terms with Germany, and to secure the neutrality of this country in the war which has unhappily broken out. First of all, let me deal with what he said. The right hon. Gentleman has told us he admits there are no formal obligations binding this country to intervene in this war. None whatever. No formal obligation with regard to France, at any rate up till yesterday. As regards the letter of 22nd November, 1912, which he read out to this House, I submit that it is conclusive from that point. That letter perfectly and clearly intimated to France that we could not undertake to support her in a European war, and, as he fairly put it, it was entirely open to this House, and it is so even now, to decide whether we are going to intervene in this war at all.
We may consider our own interests, or rather we may consider and are bound to consider the views of those who send us hereto this House when we are dealing with a question of this sort. What are the two formal reasons which are given us why it is essential for us, at the present time, to undertake warlike operations against Germany and Austria? There are only two reasons. They are, in the first place, that we are bound to protect the Northern coast of France, and, in the second place, that we are bound to intervene to prevent any passage of German troops across Belgian soil. In spite of the cheers which have greeted this statement, I venture to think that the right hon. Gentleman in the speech he made went some way to supply the answer to those two reasons that he urged. With regard to the coast of France, he made it perfectly clear that the German Government had offered to this country, that if we would pledge ourselves to neutrality, Germany would undertake not to attack the northern coast of France. That was an undertaking which was cheered from this side of the House and which found a good deal of sympathy.
But the right hon. Gentleman went on to say that that was far too narrow an engagement.
Then I come to the second point—to the question of Belgium. I want the House to realise that we are not dealing with a country which refuses all negotiations. Germany has never put herself in that position. She has not said, “We refuse to negotiate; we claim the right to march our troops across Belgium, and we claim the right to attack the coast of France.” That is not what Germany says. I quote the words of the right hon. Gentleman as I took them down. “They would guarantee Belgian integrity”—[An HON. MEMBER: “At the end of the war!”]—and to that the reply was, “We cannot bargain away our interests in Belgian neutrality.” In other words, we are asked now to involve this country in all the perils of this great adventure, because, forsooth, Germany is going to insist on her right to march some troops—[Interruption.]—because Germany insists on her point of view. I am quite prepared to admit that if Germany threatened to annex Belgium, or to occupy Belgium, or if she disregarded the rights of nationality, we might be bound under our Treaty Obligation to go to war to protect Belgium. But what, after all, is the actual fact? What is it we are asked to do? We are asked to go to war because there may be a few German regiments in a corner of Belgian territory. I am not prepared to support a Government which goes to war under those circumstances. We are not merely proposing to go to war for inadequate reasons, but we are doing even more than the Belgian Government are asking us to do. As I understood the right hon. Gentleman, the Belgian Government asked him if he would give diplomatic support, and the reply was that he did not think diplomatic support was sufficient. We have to consider whether it is worth the while of this country to do more even than the Belgian Government asks us to do, in order to have the privilege of intervening in a European war. I do not agree with it. I do not think that these two reasons, although they may be diplomatic reasons, are the real reasons why we are going to engage in this perilous venture. I believe we are going to war now because of the fear and jealousy entertained in this country unfortunately, and fostered by large sections of the Press—the fear and jealousy of German ambition. I believe that is the real reason why hon. Gentlemen opposite are asking this country to go to war, and I do not think there would be any war fever in the country except for the demands made by the Party opposite and their supporters in the Press. At any rate, I believe I am justified in saying it is abundantly clear that it is this fear of Germany which is to-day driving us to war. I ask myself whether we have not in times past suffered enough, paid enough treasure, and paid enough of the blood of the subjects of this country in order to preserve what John Bright once called that “foul fetish—the balance of power in Europe.” I ask myself, too, whether we now can be sure we shall preserve that balance of power.
The right hon. Gentleman said very little about Russia. Let us remember that in going to war in this way we are going to war just as much to preserve the despotism of Russia as to interfere with German ambition. For my part, although I have no particular love for the German Empire, or for German methods, I have still less love for Russia or Russian methods. Without engaging in a war to support despotism, in my opinion it is perfectly possible for the right hon. Gentleman and the Government to arrange an honourable neutrality with Germany, a neutrality which would be perfectly honourable to this country. I regret very much the policy we are pursuing. I regret it still more because I think the country is being rushed into war without its knowledge. No one a week ago could have foreseen that we were going to take a step like this. After listening to the right hon. Gentleman and the reasons he has given, while we must admit the strength of his speech and its sincerity, I say I do not believe he has given a sufficient reason for our undertaking at this time, here and now, the terrible peril and danger of involving this country in war. I have only one other point. The right hon. Gentleman said, at the end of his speech, that we shall not suffer much more if we engage in war than if we stand aside. He used words to that effect. It was an unworthy remark in an otherwise able speech. It was a pity he should appeal to the British people on these grounds. If we engage in war, we shall suffer in our own country, and we shall also suffer, I believe, as regards our influence in Europe. I regret very much at the end of eight years the best you can say of the policy which has been pursued—of the Triple Entente—is that it should have landed us into such a war as this.
Mr. WEDGWOOD I represent, in this House, some 70,000 people in the Potteries, and I think it is about time we here considered what those people are going to endure during the coming months. The right hon. Gentleman on the Front Bench told us in his wonderful Jingo speech—can anybody deny that it was a Jingo speech —that the Army and Navy were ready, to the last trouser button, to do their duty. But he did not tell us that the Local Government Board of England was ready to do its duty. He indicated that this country would suffer as much if it went to war as if it did not go to war; that the destitution, the collapse of our trade and credit would be equally bad whether we went to war or not, therefore, why not go to war? He did not indicate that in this country we should spend hundreds of millions of pounds, which otherwise might have gone to tide our people over the awful time to come. Perhaps hon. Members have not conceived what is going to happen during the next fortnight—orders cancelled, no remittances coming in, men sacked by the hundred thousand or the million from their employment, people getting payment with paper and unable to buy provisions at an already rising price. What arrangements have the Government made for storing provisions in this country? They have made arrangements for looking after the armament firms, but what about the people who are stopping at home, the people who are going to suffer starvation, who, in the final resort, are going to raid the country and take food if they cannot get it otherwise? They are not being considered. Those are the people we are here to consider. I think hon. Members must realise that this is not going to be one of the dear old-fashioned wars of the eighteenth century over again. This is a war in which it is not going to be a question of feeding your armies, but of feeding the people left behind, in which it is not a question of victories at sea, but whether you can get employment for the people who are starving in our big cities. It is a question whether you are going to destroy the civilisation built up on a vast organisation and on a small pin-point of credit.
When you have knocked away the credit, which is the very basis of that organisation, you have to face in this country not a matter of battles, but a matter of sustaining a civilisation which it has taken us centuries to build up. You know how that civilisation will topple down. We have felt it already here, in the increased price we have paid for our food. We can get credit and people will let us buy goods for they know that a Member of Parliament is still good enough for a “fiver.” But we know that other people have not got that credit and cannot buy anything, because people will not give away provisions for a piece of paper.
Mr. CROFT made an observation which was inaudible in the Exporters’ Gallery.
Mr. WEDGWOOD Will the Empire, will Canada, send us food supplies?
Mr. CROFT Yes.
Mr. WEDGWOOD If they will feed my Constituents, I will sit down at once, but I know they will not. Starvation is coming in this country, and the people are not the docile serfs they were a hundred years ago. They are not going to put up with starvation in this country. When it comes, you will see something far more important than a European War—you will see a revolution.
Mr. EDMUND HARVEY I hope the House will believe me when I say it is with a real feeling of pain that I rise to differ from many of my personal friends and from Leaders whom I honour. I do not want to say one word which will make the situation more difficult. I want to recognise to the uttermost the magnificent efforts that have been made by the Foreign Secretary and his colleagues during the last fortnight on behalf of peace. One knows that the strain must have been almost intolerable, yet I feel that it ought to be possible, even at this late hour, to make yet further efforts, and not to abandon the case, as he seems to have done, as hopeless. We have had offers made from Germany, both of which he felt to be inadequate in themelves, but might they not have been, and even yet be, the basis for further negotiations? Could it not be possible, even at this last hour, for Great Britain to say that if there were no attack made on the coast of France, and if Belgium were respected, Great Britain would remain neutral? So far as we understand there has been no definite offer like that made to Germany. Surely even at this last hour, in the interests of peace, that ought to be possible. My hon. Friend has referred to the sentence of the Foreign Secretary, in which he spoke of the loss to this country being almost as great if we did not go to war as if we did. I do not think merely of the loss of property, terrible as that may be, or of the suffering which it will involve to the poor, terrible as that will be. Surely we may ask the Government to think of the terrible sacrifice of human life, of the thousands of homes that will be made wretched in this country and in other countries, if this country participates in the war. If we can save that loss of life, not in our own country alone, but in other countries as well, it would be worth while that we should make the utmost efforts, even at this last moment, on behalf of peace. I am convinced that this war, for the great masses of the countries of Europe, and not for our own country alone, is no people’s war. It is a war that has been made—I am not referring to our Leaders here—by men in high places, by diplomatists working in secret, by bureaucrats who are out of touch with the peoples of the world, who are the remnant of an older evil civilisation which is disappearing by gradual and peaceful methods. I want to make an appeal on behalf of the people, who are voiceless except in this House, that there should be a supreme effort made to save this terrible wreckage of human life, that we may not make this further sacrifice upon the altar of the terrible, bloodstained idol of the balance of power, but should be willing to make great sacrifices of patience in the sacred cause of peace.
Mr. KEIR HARDIE I desire for a very few minutes to intervene in this Debate. Both Houses of Parliament have passed, with absolute unanimity, a Bill for the relief of the Stock Exchange. We Members, from these Benches, offered no objection, but we now demand to be informed what is going to be done for the relief of the inevitable destitution which is bound to prevail among the poor? As the Foreign Secretary informed us, whether we take part in the conflict or not, there is bound to be much suffering. That involves starving children. Will the Government pass with the same promptitude as we have done the Bill for the relief of the Stock Exchange and the business interests, the Bill to compel education authorities to feed hungry school-children? We ask for an answer. We are far more interested in the sufferings of the poor than we are in the inconvenience to members of the Stock Exchange. Most of the Members of this House have a more direct interest in the Stock Exchange than they have in the sufferings of the poor. [HON. MEMBERS: “No, no!” “Shame!” and “Name!”] The proof of that will be found if the same promptitude be shown in redressing and alleviating the poverty of the poor as we have shown in the other case. What action is to be taken, not merely to ensure a sufficient food supply, but to safeguard the public against being robbed by food speculators? Surely that issue is urgent and important! Not only will workers be thrown out of work by the million—it will not simply be by the thousand, but by the million—but the unscrupulous gang who form the food ring will take advantage of the war crisis to rob the poor more than the market justifies. They have already commenced, without justification of any kind. We are entitled to demand from the Government—not merely to request, but to demand—to be informed what action is to be taken to safeguard the interests of the working classes in the crisis we are now approaching.
One word more. The decision of the Government has been come to without consulting the country. It remains to be seen whether the Government and the House of Commons represent the country on this question. So far as some of us are concerned—here I do not speak for the party with which I am connected for the present moment, but for myself personally—we shall endeavour to ascertain what is the real feeling of the country and especially of the working classes of the country, in regard to the decision of the Government, We belong to a Party which is international. In Germany, in France, in Belgium and in Austria, the party corresponding to our own is taking all manner of risks to promote and preserve peace. [An HON. MEMBER: “Why do they not control the German Emperor?”] I am asked, why they do not control the German Emperor? For the same reason that we do not control the Liberal Cabinet—we are not strong enough. But we are growing. My point is that in all these countries the party corresponding to our own is working strenuously for peace, and especially throughout Germany. I confess that I heard with a feeling akin to wonder this afternoon the refusal by our Foreign Secretary on behalf of the Cabinet, even to consider the offers made on behalf of the German Government to keep this country out of the dispute. If the neutrality of Belgium can be secured after the war, if the Germans offer not to bombard the coast of France—if these can be made the basis for further negotiation, then every form of justification of the Cabinet for going into the war will have been taken away. I say respectfully to the House that some of us will do all we can to rouse the working classes of the country in opposition to this proposal of the Government, but especially we have the right to ask what action is now going to be taken to alleviate, as far as possible, the sufferings of those who are bound to be hard hit by war, whether we take part in it or not. Our honour is said to be involved in entering into the war. That is always the excuse. I suppose our honour was involved in the Crimean War, and who to-day justifies it? Our honour was involved in the Boer War. How many to-day will justify it? A few years hence, and if we are led into this war, we shall look back in wonder and amazement at the flimsy reasons which induced the Government to take part in it.
Mr. PONSONBY I feel that I cannot remain seated at what I feel to be the most tragic moment I have yet seen. We are on the eve of a great war, and I hate to see people embarking on it with a light heart. The war fever has already begun. I saw it last night when I walked through the streets. I saw bands of half-drunken youths waving flags, and I saw a group outside a great club in St. James’s Street being encouraged by members of the club from the balcony. The war fever has begun, and that is what is called patriotism; I think we have plunged too quickly, and I think the Foreign Secretary’s speech shows that what has been rankling all these years is a deep animosity against German ambitions. The balance of power is responsible for this—this mad desire to keep up an impossibility in Europe, to try and divide the two sections of Europe into an armed camp, glaring at one another with suspicion and hostility and hatred, and arming all the time, and bleeding the people to pay for the armaments. Since I have been in this House I have every year protested against the growth in the expenditure upon armaments. Every year it has mounted up and up, and old women of both sexes have told us that the best way to prepare to maintain peace is to prepare for war.
This is what they have led us to—those who were foolish enough to believe it. It was inevitable that if Europe continued to arm, if every nation bled the people in order to furnish new ships and new guns, to grind all the people who devote their energy, their labour, and their enterprise to one sole object, the preparation for war, war will take place. Still I do not even at this moment wish to see the horizon entirely black. I believe there is still a ray of hope. I regret the tone of the Foreign Secretary’s speech. I felt that it was in keeping with the scenes I had seen last night. But still he declared that not yet has the fatal step been taken. The House of Commons has treated those of us who are protesting to-day with the greatest patience, but it is right that those of us who hold these views should express them. It is by this House of Commons that the decision must be taken, and however small a minority we may be who consider that we have abandoned our attitude of neutrality too soon and that every effort should still be made to do what we can to maintain our attitude of peace towards the other Powers of Europe, I think in the country we have a very large body of opinion with us. War is a very different thing today from what it has been before. We look forward to it with horror, and men who have not got money, and must have food, and cannot buy it, will take it. We have scenes of that sort to look forward to. In the future, which is so black, I trust that my fellow countrymen will not embark on this light-heartedly and in a spirit of aggression. I trust that, even though it may be late, the Foreign Secretary will use every endeavour to the very last moment, disregarding the tone of messages, and the manner of Ambassadors, but looking to the great central interets of humanity and civilisation, to keep this country in a state of peace.
Sir A. MARKHAM I think the House must feel that the speech we have just listened to, and those remarks in particular relating to the Foreign Secretary, were really quite unjustified. No man during the time I have been in this House has presented a case more free from bias, and in a more even manner before the country than the Foreign Secretary. Since the entente commenced in this country I have always opposed it for the reason that, in my opinion, unless it was accompanied by a similar undertaking to Germany, we were likely to find ourselves in a time like this in a very grave position. No one has striven more to impress upon the Government the necessity of maintaining peace than I have, as only a humble Member on the back Bench, but at the same time there can, I think, only be one issue arising out of this question which the House of Commons has to decide, whether we in this country are going to respect the rights of small States, or whether we are going to allow a large dominant Power in Europe to sweep out all these small independent States. At the time of the Boer War, the hon. Member (Mr. Keir Hardie) was fighting for maintaining the individuality of small States. No self-respecting country can admit the right of a great power in Europe to over-ride and beat down a small nationality. We in this country have stood for the rights of small States, and we cannot become a party to allowing Belgium to be over-run by Germany in reliance on a promise from Germany, which I for one do not for a moment believe, that at the end of the war Germany will hand back to Belgium what she has already undertaken by solemn treaty not to violate. I think the House in this great crisis must remember this. This great Empire to which we belong has not been built up on the foundation of allowing close to our shores a great Power to be erected which might be a menace to the interests of the British people.
If we falter this time, we falter, in my opinion, for the end of the British Empire, for the reason that no self-respecting people on the Continent will ever believe that we, who have stood for liberty in the past, will stand for it again. Therefore, when we are told that this war will be unpopular, as we know it is unpopular, in the country, it is for us to take a courageous stand and say that it is for us, as a House of Commons, to decide what is right and what is wrong. For the reason that the country does not know the truth of the matter the issue is unpopular, but are we to be guided by what is popular or unpopular? We have to do what is our duty. If we do our duty to the State to which we belong, and in the material interest of the State, great though the sacrifice be, we ought not to shrink, whatever the cost in blood or treasure may be, from doing what is our duty towards the country, which has been handed down to us by our forefathers. The hon. Member (Mr. Keir Hardie) said it was the duty of the Government first to protect the interests of the workers, who will undoubtedly suffer most in this war. I have no doubt in my own mind for the moment that the Prime Minister and his Cabinet will give that their first consideration. It is no use the hon. Member saying they have never done it before. They have never had the opportunity of doing it before. During the time this Government has been in office we have, mercifully, been free from the horrors of war. But I have no doubt myself that the Cabinet and the Prime Minister will see to it, with the great industrial communities in this country, that every step the Government can take to alleviate these people’s sufferings will be taken. The hon. Member also said that this would be an opportunity to raise prices on the community. I can only tell him, speaking for one of the largest groups of mines in this country, that I gave instructions yesterday, on no consideration, to allow the price of coal to be raised one farthing above what it is at present. That will also be the wish and the desire of all who wish well to their country. We do not wish to use this opportunity for the purpose that the hon. Member thinks. Therefore, having listened to the speech of the Foreign Secretary, all doubt in my mind vanished, and I shall, to the best of my ability, give him every support in the policy he has enunciated.
Sir ALBERT SPICER It is with no pleasure that I intervene in this Debate. I desire, in the first place, to dissociate myself from anything which has been said with regard to the light or harsh way in which the Foreign Secretary spoke this afternoon. I believe he has made every effort up to the present to keep this country out of the great conflict which is threatened, and it is because I believe that that day has not yet passed that I intervene now. I represent an industrial constituency, and I know only too well from the experience of the past how the masses suffer in these crises and in these states of war. They are the first to suffer. They suffer all the way through, and they are the last to recover. Many of us have reserves that enable us to maintain an easy position, and I only intervene at this moment because I have the feeling that the Government may still, with increased effort, keep this country in a neutral position. It is perfectly true that Germany has not said all we want her to say, but I listened to their first propositions with some hope if the negotiations were still continued. After all, there is the balance of power, and I believe in the balance of power, but I do not want to put one nation in such a superior position over others, and, therefore, I do feel that one would only be betraying one’s responsibility if one did not say this word in urging the Government to proceed with their negotiations, because I quite admit that if these negotiations cannot be brought further, we shall be justified in taking up a certain attitude. I am prepared to back the Government in any measures for defence, but I do plead with them to do what they can to prevent our adopting the offensive, and I am encouraged by the speech of the Foreign Secretary to hope that they will proceed with further negotiations to enable this result to be arrived at.
Mr. ROWNTREE I quite agree with what was said by my hon. Friend the Member for West Leeds (Mr. Harvey) that in common with all the House we are indebted to the Foreign Secretary and the Government for their untiring efforts in the cause of peace, and I want to join with my hon. Friends who have already spoken in urging them not to give up the effort. As I listened to the Foreign Secretary I felt that his speech was really the most striking condemnation of the policy of the balance of power that one could think of, and I did regret—it was not unnatural, I admit—the tone that he adopted towards Germany twice or thrice in his speech. One of the points that will come out clearly when we look back on these negotiations is that no Power has done everything that was right, and just because we naturally complain of the tone and the attitude that Germany has adopted so we cannot, and we must not, I think, refuse to look fairly at any offers that they make. I cannot believe that it is impossible yet to obtain from Germany the two assurances that the Foreign Secretary specially desired—the assurance with respect to the Northern and Western coasts of France, and the assurance with respect to the integrity of Belgium. I know it is a difficult thing to get an assurance. I know it is a difficult thing to maintain the integrity of a country. I remember not long ago that we guaranteed the integrity of Persia, and yet we have seen that integrity done away with by Russia, and we have been able to do very little to support the promise that we made. I do appeal to the Foreign Secretary and the Prime Minister, who, after all, stand higher in the public: estimation of Europe and the world than almost any other statesmen, not to give-way yet in their efforts for peace. For whom are we going to fight? We are going to fight for Russia. We shall argue that it is chiefly because of France, and yet we know that it is for Russia that we are going to fight. I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Burnley (Mr. Morrell) that that is not the civilisation that England wishes to fight for at the-present time. I cannot help thinking that if this Government is going to increase the power of Russia at the expense of Germany, she will find in the near future that her difficulties are largely increased. I think of the frontier of India, I think of Afghanistan, and I think of Persia. We are going to increase enormously the power of Russia, and I think we shall have these difficulties to face at a very early day. Ay! and do not let us forget that when we go to war against Germany, we go to war against a people who, after all, hold largely the ideals which we hold. I do not mean the beaurocracy, I do not mean the military element, but the German civilisation is in many ways near the-British civilisation. We think of their literature, we think of what they have-done for progressive religious thought, we think of what they have done for philosophy, and we say that these are not the men we want to fight.
I still think that if the Government will exercise patience—I do not say that they have not exercised it already, I only ask them to exercise further patience—and if they will try to come to an arrangement with Germany on the two points I have mentioned—points, I admit, it is necessary to come to an accommodation upon—I believe that there is the greatest work still to be done in the future. How is this war to end? If you possibly can arrange, England wants to keep free from this war, so that those engaged will have the inestimable benefit of having the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary to act as great mediators. You may laugh at that, and yet I ask you honestly to consider who is going to settle this war, unless it is these two right hon. Gentlemen who should be in a position to act in the settlement that must come, because you have in the last resort to appeal to reason and not to force. The more patience they exercise, the longer their exertions to bring Germany to a proper frame of mind at the present time, the greater will be their influence when the real time for settlement comes. I do appeal to them not to give up hope yet. I want to take this opportunity of raising my voice against England going into this war. The Foreign Secretary said that this House would have an opportunity of saying Yea or Nay to any proposition made, but I regret to think that already he has very largely pledged the House by the answer he gave to the French Ambassador on Sunday, and I, as a very humble Member want, at any rate, to take this opportunity of saying that I for one will having nothing to do with this war.
Mr. LESLIE SCOTT I wish to raise a question, really on a point of Order, and for the convenience of the House. There are some important questions on the Paper in my name and in the name of the hon. Member for the Wilton Division of Wiltshire (Mr. Charles Bathurst) relating to the Government proposals as to the National Insurance of ships and cargoes in the event of this country being a belligerent. These questions were postponed at the suggestion of the Chancellor of the Exchequer who intimated that he would make a statement on the whole subject in the course of the Debate. It would be for the convenience of the House that the Chancellor of the Exchequer’s statement should be made soon.
Mr. LLOYD GEORGE The Government are considering very carefully the all-important question of food supply in the event of war. The question that was put by the hon. and learned Gentleman is, of course, one of the very first we have to take into consideration, and we have arrived at a decision with regard to that. We have arrived at a decision with regard to the question of war risks, and the protection of our cargoes and ships. I do not know that I really could, to-night, give a full description of the steps which we intend taking, when the mind of the House is occupied at the present moment with the much greater issues of war. Tomorrow I propose to give a detailed account of the steps we propose to take, and I think that will meet the convenience of the House. But I should like to say one word to correct a misapprehension—a serious misapprehension—which my hon. Friend behind me has been labouring under in regard to the Act of Parliament we have introduced. I can assure him that is not a measure to protect a small section of the business community. It is essentially a measure for the protection of the whole of our credit system, and unless you take steps of that kind a collapse might ensue, which might throw hundreds of thousands, and even millions of workpeople out of employment. I think it would be very unfortunate for the workmen of the kingdom if they were to have that impression on their minds to-morrow morning, and the Stock Exchange only comes in because of the difficulty of realising securities in order to support the market. Therefore, it is very important that I should take this first opportunity of correcting a most serious misapprehension.